Recently, my friend Amy wrote this humorous blog post about being an English Student. As an English student, I loved it. It’s not very relevant to what I’m planning to discuss in this blog post, but it’s been on my mind since I read it, and it sparked the train of thought that led to this blog post. Well, that and the fact that I hadn’t made one for a while.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my English degree. I love to write. I’ll probably try to do that until I keel over. That’s also not what this blog post is about, though. This blog post is about reading.
Undoubtedly, a love of reading is what lead to my passion for writing. When I was little, I shared a room with both of my sisters. My baby sister had her own bed (it’s a bed in my head, but I suppose it’s possible it was a cot, or, more likely, a cot then a bed), and my older sister and I had bunk beds. I was on the bottom bunk. My mum used to read to us every night, and I, on the lower bunk, was right beside her as she read. It wasn’t just picture books, though (though we definitely had those, too, as Where The Wild Things Are is a family favourite), I distinctly remember her reading us The Chronicles of Narnia. We had one of those beautiful big collections with the gold ribbon bookmark and the gorgeous pictures. The Magician’s Nephew was (is) my favourite.
When I started school, English immediately became my favourite subject. I wrote a lot of stories, but I also read a lot. My favourite books were The Secret Garden and The Famous Five series, because I got a lot of my books from my Nana and they were things her or my mum had owned as children. I fell in love with reading. It’s a cliché I don’t need to expand upon. I read for pleasure pretty much every day.
Now, reading for pleasure requires time that I no longer find I have. Bookshops are still safe havens I creep to at any spare moment, but my pile of To Read is growing and growing and it shows no signs of getting any smaller. All of my time is eaten up by reading I have to do for my degree, and when I get home from University at the end of a long day and I’m mentally exhausted, it’s hard to focus my brain enough to pick up another book. I feel guilty about it. I should be reading these, I’m an English student.
I spent a week not so long ago smashing through book after book, and then I came to a sudden stop as coursework deadlines loomed and my reading for class piled up. I’ve got a half-finished copy of Heap House on my bedside, and I’m desperate to get through it so I can make a final decision as to whether or not I liked it (I’m on the fence. There’ll undoubtedly be a post about it whenever I manage to get it read). All of the possible reading time has been eaten up with weekly Shakespeare plays, novels/plays/short stories/poems by various Irish writers, and a toss up between a novel, a collection of poems, or a variety of weighty theoretical essays. And that’s only my literature models. When I’m not reading, I’ve got prep work to do, and when I’ve not got prep work I’ve got coursework, and to top it all off my exams start in less than a month. Free time? What’s that?
I felt guilty about my To Read pile. It was a source of shame for me. I felt like I should keep it a secret (perhaps if I had an attic I could lock it up there?), but then I realised… why should I? I have a lot of things I’m excited to read. They’ll get read over Summer, and I’ve been reading every day. Why should my reading for class be any less valid? So what if it’s not fiction? So what if I’m reading a chapter of a language textbook on pragmatics than a chapter of a YA novel? Why is Orlando less of a valid read than Under My Skin, just because I’m reading it for university? It isn’t. I’m still reading every day. Those words count.
That sort of got me thinking about the other ways in which people have this stupid idea of “proper” reading. There are people (and I’ve a couple of these people in my classes) that will tell you that Harry Potter isn’t “proper” reading, like Wuthering Heights. There are people that seem to think that new books, and children’s and YA novels don’t “count” like “classics”. You know what? They’re wrong. You want to know a secret? I didn’t really like Orlando anyway. It’s okay to not like books everybody is telling you are great works of fiction. My partner can’t stand The Catcher in the Rye, and you know what? I don’t even blame her. I can see quite clearly why someone couldn’t enjoy it.
That’s not to say that if you enjoy classic books I’m criticising you. The point I’m trying to make is that it doesn’t matter what you enjoy reading as long as you enjoy reading it. And that no matter what you’re reading, it all counts as reading. Don’t feel guilty about not reading as much if you’re busy – whether, like me, you’re busy reading other things or not. What you read, and how much you read, is completely up to you. Just make sure you’re having a good time.
This blog post was written to distract myself from the anxiety brewing in my stomach at the UK 2015 Election Exit Poll. It’s sort of a mess of thoughts. Sorry about that.